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Arkansans like Palin

Arkansas delegates, like other Republicans in the convention hall Wednesday, had only good things to say about Sarah Palin’s vice presidential acceptance speech.

Delegates had been excited all week about John McCain’s surprise choice for a running mate. They said Palin kept impressing with her remarks.

“It was awesome. She hit it out of the park and it’s still going,:” said Robin Lundstrum of Springdale. “She hit all the right notes.”

Lundstrum said she was pleased to hear Palin’s assurance that America would become energy independent during a McCain-Palin administration. She also was satisfied that Palin talked tough on taxes.

“I’m just so pleased, she didn’t talk over all the issues. She just told you what she thought. She doesn’t talk out of both sides of her mouth,” Lundstrum said.

During a week where the McCain-Palin campaign announced that Palin’s 17-year-old daughter was pregnant, Arkansas Delegate Joseph Wood of Fayetteville said he thought it was important Palin didn’t gloss over her family issues.

“She said what she needed to say about the challenges her family has faced and she did a good job,” Wood said. “She didn’t go into all the dirty details.”

Palin, too, struck the right tone on Democratic candidate Barack Obama, Wood said.

“She didn’t go after Obama. She just went after his record,” Wood said.


Dreary Tuesday

A steady rain set in at mid-morning today in the Twin Cities as a cold front passed through. Monday’s highs in the 90s were expected to be replaced today and Wednesday by temperatures that stay in the low 70s.

To avoid the rain and the doldrums of a still up-in-the-air convention schedule, this blogger has joined a small group of Arkansans on a cab ride to downtown Minneapolis for an event called Civic Fest.  It is described as a festival honoring Minnesota and U.S. history.

It’s a good thing five people are sharing a taxi. Cab prices are steep in the Twin Cities: a $2.50 flag drop and $2.35 every mile. Right now the fare is $20.36…rather $20.83…oops, $21.30…

… and there’s probably another five miles to go.

Maybe the boss will swing by Western Union.


Tale of two parties

Media parties hosted by the Democrats and Republicans before their conventions only reinforced the stereotypes that often get attached to each party: the fun-loving Democrats with their “big tent” openness and the formal, structured GOP.

Democrats hosted media at an amusement park Aug. 23 in Denver. Guests at the free event were offered typical carnival fare like cotton candy and funnel cakes. Journalists got free access to most rides, perhaps so that they could hop on the Tilt-a-Whirl in case all the free beer didn’t make them dizzy enough.

On Saturday in Minneapolis, the Republicans treated journalists to a party at a museum and a performing arts theater. There, journalists were given hors d’oeuvres of pate, portobello mushrooms and crab sushi.

It was quite the contrast. Democrats set up picnic tables. It was pub tables for the GOP.

The one constant aside from the free-flowing food and drink? The freeloading reporters by the thousands to take advantage of it all.

The parties are a big convention week highlight for most journalists. More than a year before this year’s conventions, veteran reporters regaled this first-time convention-goer with stories about legendary media parties.The 1996 GOP party on the boardwalk in San Diego ranks among the best.

The media party is really the only time journalists can mingle with others in the profession and spend some time away from work during the always-hectic convention week. The party is traditionally held on the Saturday before a convention’s Monday start.


Gustav may impact convention

As thousands travel to the Twin Cities in Minnesota this weekend for the start of the Republican National Convention, GOP officials are keeping an eye on the Gulf of Mexico as Tropical Storm Gustav churns toward the coast.

Republicans could delay the convention’s start if Gustav threatens. Otherwise, Republicans may be criticized for celebrating in Minnesota during a disaster elsewhere.

One Arkansas convention delegate said she thinks Republicans should press on with their convention, regardless of what happens with Gustav.

“The world doesn’t stop revolving on its axis because we have a hurricane. Neither does the United States,” said Anne Britton of Faytteville.

Britton said she was sympathetic to those in the storm’s path, but that “we need to show the world we’re capable of doing two things at once.”

Britton has been in Minneapolis-St. Paul for almost a week already to attend GOP caucus meetings.

To Joseph Wood, a Fayetteville delegate for John McCain, that the presumptive presidential nominee is even considering a delay shows his presidential ability.

“It’s him stepping out and acting as president,” Wood said. “He’s saying, ‘Hey, this is coming. We need to be ready.’”


Arkansans exuberant over Obama

Long security lines meant a 3-hour wait for incoming state House Speaker Robbie Wills, D-Conway, before he got into Denver’s Invesco Field for the final night of the Democratic National Convention on Thursday.

Those Arkansans who made it into the stadium more quickly sat for hours beneath an unrelenting sun waiting for the real star of the night, presidential nominee Barack Obama.

“It was worth the wait,” Wills said.

The delegates waved American flags and posters for the duration of Obama’s acceptance speech. The Arkansas delegation sat about 40 yards to the left of the stage on the football field-turned-convention hall.

As fireworks exploded and confetti drifted down toward some of the estimated 80,000 people in attendance, Arkansan Susana O’Daniel was hard-pressed to find words to capture the moment.

“I am so overwhelmed right now,” she said.

The Washington County resident who supported Sen. Hillary Clinton said Obama correctly used the speech not only to inspire, but to offer some specifics about what he would do as president.

“It was really good to have his point-by-point layout and his plan,” O’Daniel said. “This will go a long way. Everybody is united now. Everybody.”

Karla Bradley, the first vice chairman of the state Democratic party, said the speech “was about bridging the gaps to solve problems that maybe we thought we couldn’t solve.”

“It was a departure from the cynicism we have had the past eight years,” said Bradley, also of Washington County.

One of only eight Arkansas delegates who entered the national convention as an Obama delegate was also impressed with the speech.

“I think it was right on,” said Kedrin Edgerson of Jonesboro. “I think everyone was touched by it. Everyone knows we need change and he has a plan to do it.”

The Obama campaign has a tougher task ahead in its bid to win over Natural State voters.


And I would walk 500 miles…

Spectators eager to see Barack Obama’s historic acceptance speech tonight face extremely long lines to get into Invesco Field for the event.

Six hours before Obama was expected to take the stage, a line of ticket-holders snaked more than a half-mile outside the Denver’s NFL stadium.

Security was extremely tight at the outdoor venue. Attendees passed bags through X-ray machines and stepped through metal detectors. Bottled-water drinkers were required to take a sip before they could pass through security. Presumably, that was so that law enforcement could be sure the liquid wasn’t hazardous.

More than 70,000 people are expected to attend the fourth night of the Democratic National Convention as Obama accepts his party’s presidential nomination. It marks the first time a major political party has nominated a black candidate.

Obama’s speech falls on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington.

More than a hundred Arkansans are expected for the final night of the Democratic National Convention. The party gave the state’s delegation enough of the in-demand passes to accommodate Arkansans who are not delegates.

The state’s 47 delegates will be seated with other state delegations in prime seats on the football field.

The 5,000 or so people already in the stadium at 2:30 p.m. Mountain should have brought sunscreen. Though the temperature is pleasant (in the upper 70s) the sun is unmerciful.

The Denver Convention and Visitors Bureau warned visitors this week that the sun’s rays are 25 percent stronger in Denver than elsewhere in the country because of the region’s altitude.

Denver is exactly a mile high.


Blue Dog party raises questions

Congressional Quarterly today reported that some ethics watchdog groups criticized the Blue Dog Democrats for participating in a party Sunday in Denver on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.

A spokesman for one ethics group told the publication the “Blue Night In Denver” party was not in line with a new law that puts restrictions on lawmakers who attend a lobbyist-sponsored reception.

Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, is one of the leaders of the group of fiscally conservative Democrats in the House.

He was reported saying that the House Blue Dog Coalition had nothing to do with the party.

“We paid at the door like everybody else,” Ross said.

Rep. Marion Berry, D-Gillett, is also a Blue Dog.

The Washington Post and Salon.com feature related articles.


Quote of the Day

“I haven’t actually spoken to Barack because he’s busy, really busy. This morning, he was in the john. I was knocking on the door. All I got to say was ‘Love ya.’”

“Yes, he does that too. I know you don’t think he does.” — Maya Soetoro-Ng, Barack Obama’s sister, acknowledging that her brother — who has obtained a cult-like following among some supporters — has normal, human bodily functions.

Soetoro-Ng spoke at breakfast meeting with delegates to the Democratic National Convention from Arkansas and Hawaii.


Aloha, Arkansas

Fans of the television show “Lost” got a surprise treat Thursday during a joint meeting with the Hawaii delegation to the Democratic National Convention.

Daniel Dae Kim, who plays Jin on the popular show, found himself at breakfast with the Hawaiian group. “Lost” is filmed in Hawaii.

“We’re going from the state of our last great president to the state of our next great president,” said Kim. Barack Obama is a Hawaii native.

“So I think there’s a bit of history in this room right now and I’m glad to be a part of it,” he added.

He was accompanied by Kelly Hu, an actress and former Miss Hawaii. Hu starred as Lady Deathstrike in X2, the sequel to the X-Men movie. She was also in the movie “The Scorpion King.”

Hu said she and Kim took a red-eye flight from Hawaii to Denver overnight Thursday. They were in town for Obama’s acceptance speech tonight at Invesco Field.

Obama’s sister is scheduled to speak at the joint delegation meeting.

Arkansas, Hawaii, and Delaware delegations are all staying in the same hotel.

Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, noted the unique grouping: Bill Clinton was born in Arkansas, Obama in Hawaii and Joe Biden, the vice presidential nominee, is a senator from Delaware.

“Isn’t this a great day where we can put Arkansas and Delaware and Hawaii together, this day was destined to happen,: Abercrombie said.

He added an aside to the group from Arkansas: “Who would have believed that Bill Clinton was going to come out of Arkansas and win not only the first time but kick $#! the second time?”


Arkansas roll call

Arkansas delegates to the Democratic National Convention cast 37 votes for Barack Obama during Democrats’ official roll call to nominate their presidential choice this afternoon.

Eight votes went to Hillary Clinton, who earlier Wednesday released her pledged delegates to vote for Obama if they so chose.

Rebecca Gwatney, who announced the state Democrats’ votes inside the convention hall, said they heeded Hillary Clinton’s call for unity within the party.

Clinton won the state’s Democratic primary overwhelmingly on Feb. 5. Before Wednesday, her pledged delegates from Arkansas outnumbered Obama’s nearly 4-to-1.

Initially, the secretary of the convention incorrectly announced the state’s tally as unanimous for Obama.

State Rep. Steve Harrelson, D-Texarkana, who is seated with the state’s delegation, said Gwatney’s microphone was mistakenly cut off before she read the vote totals.

Here is her statement in its entirety, courtesy of the Democratic Party of Arkansas:

On behalf of the great state of Arkansas, the adopted home of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the state that provided her with her largest margin of 70 percent in the 2008 Democratic primary, and a state with an admiration for Bill and Hillary Clinton that is unmatched throughout this country, I am proud tonight to follow Sen. Clinton’s call for unity, and to unite behind Sen. Barack Obama and elect him the next president of the United States.

Arkansas casts 37 votes for Barack Obama and eight for Sen. Clinton.

Together we will take back the White House.


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